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The Merchant of Venice Questions Acts II-V

Act II, scene i


1. Describe the Prince of Morocco.
2. What does Portia tell the Prince of Morocco he must swear to if he does choose a casket?
3. What is Portia's reaction to the Prince of Morocco? Based on her previous comments to Nerissa,
do you believe her? Why or why not?

Act II, scene ii Questions

1. Why does Launcelot want to run away from Shylock? How does he describe Shylock?
2. Describe the interaction between Launcelot & his father, Old Gobbo. How does this scene depict
Launcelot's feelings toward his father?
3. What does Bassanio tell Launcelot he may do after accepting Gobbo's gift? What possible
negative outcome could this have on the rest of the characters?

Act II, scene iii Questions

1. What does Jessica give Launcelot?


2. What clues so far in the play indicate that Shylock's house is "hell"?
3. What "compliment" is Launcelot trying to give Jessica? What is ironic about Launcelot's speech
in lines 10-13?
4. Why is Jessica so ashamed to be a Jew?
5. How much of her running away is related to her oppressive father, and how much is related to
her faith? What evidence do you have for your answer?
6. What similarities are there between Launcelot and Old Gobbo's relationship and Jessica and
Shylock's? What are the differences you can see this far?

Act II, scene iv Questions

1. What are the men preparing for?


2. What is Lorenzo's answer to Jessica's letter?
3. What is Lorenzo's plan regarding Jessica?
4. What do you think will be Shylock's reaction to all of this?

Act II, scene v Questions

1. What is Shylock's initial reaction to Launcelot's leaving his service?


2. Why does Shylock say he will accept Bassanio's invitation?
3. How does Shylock perceive himself as a father and master? Give evidence to support your
answer.
4. What is the purpose of this scene?

Act II, Scene vi Questions

1. What is going on in the town that Salerio & Graziano are dressed up? Why is this a convenient
party time? (What else is going on that this will help?)
2. Describe how Jessica leaves her fathers house. What does she bring with her? Why is this
surprising? Or is it surprising? What are your reactions to her actions?
3. What good news does Antonio give Bassanio at the close of this scene?
Act II, scene vii Questions

1. Describe the three caskets the Prince of Morocco must choose from: gold, silver, & lead.
2. What does the correct casket contain?
3. What does the Prince decide about the lead casket? What does he decide about the silver one?
Why does he finally choose the gold?
4. What is inside the gold casket? Has the Prince won Portia?

Act II, Scene viii Questions

1. Describe what Shylock did when he discovered his daughter missing.


2. What two things does Shylock keep shouting? Which does it seem is more important to him?
How is Shakespeare stereotyping Shylock here?
3. Where is the comedy in this scene? Explain.

Act II, scene ix Questions

1. Describe the Prince of Aragon's choosing of the caskets. Which one does he finally choose? Has
he won Portia? What is in the casket he chooses? Describe the item & its scroll.
2. How does the Act and scene end on an uplifting tone? Explain.

Act III, scene i Questions

1. Why is it such a crisis for Shylock that his daughter has converted & married a Christian?
2. Why does Shylock channel his grief over Jessica's leaving into anger at Antonio?
3. According to this scene, were Salerio and Solanio's report about Shylock's reaction to Jessica's
escape correct? How has this affected your opinion about those two characters? How has the
reaction you actually see from Shylock affected your opinion of him?
4. Which does Shylock miss more: Jessica or his money? How would his grief and anger affect the
way he talks about his losses?
5. Based on how Shylock has been treated by Christians, is it wrong for him to want revenge? If
positions were reversed, would Antonio demand fulfillment of the bond according to the terms
that were set?
6. Why is the loss of the ring even more agonizing to Shylock?
7. Is Shylock a villain or a victim? Explain.

Act III, scene ii Questions

1. How is Portia's demeanor with Bassanio different from that with her other suitors? What new
side of Portia are we seeing?
2. Compare Bassanio's logic in selection with Morocco's and Aragon's. How does his elimination
process differ from theirs? How does his description of the world also describe himself? Would
he have been able to choose without Portia's hints or encouragement? Why or why not?
3. Portia gives Bassanio the ring with a warning, and Bassanio accepts the ring with his own
pledge. How is this contract similar to and different from the one made in Venice?
4. What does Antonio's letter indicate about his feelings for Bassanio?
Act III, scene iii Questions

1. Why does Shylock insist on the punishment for forfeiting the bond?
2. Why does Solanio think the Duke will forgive the forfeiture? Why doesn't Antonio?
3. Much of the play has to do with Christian versus Jewish standards of morality. What do these
have to do with Antonio's situation right now? Does morality have anything to do with it?

Act III, scene iv Questions

1. Why would Portia even consider helping Antonio?


2. What does she tell Lorenzo that she & Nerissa will do? What is their actual plan?
3. What do Portia & Nerissa have in common with Jessica now? What purpose does each serve?
4. What advantages do you see with Portia coming to Venice? What disadvantages?

Act III, scene v Questions

1. Antonio comments that the devil can site scripture for his own purpose. How does the
scriptural debate between Launcelot and Jessica serve each character's purpose?
2. How has Launcelot & Jessica's relationship changed since he is no longer Shylock's servant?
3. What do Jessica & Lorenzo think of Portia? Why is their opinion important enough for
Shakespeare to show?

Act IV, scene i

1. What is Antonios mood going into the trial? How does this compare with his mood in the
beginning of the play?
1. What comparisons does Antonio make concerning Bassanios arguing with Shylock?
2. How is others treatment of their slaves comparable to Shylocks treatment of his pound of
flesh, according to Shylock? How does this argument test Venetian law?
3. If the courts do not uphold Shylocks claim, what does that mean for the laws of Venice?
4. How do those in the courtroom react to Shylock? How would you describe their behavior? How
is their behavior similar to and different from behavior toward him in the streets of Venice?
5. What appeals does Portia make to Shylock to have mercy? What effect do these appeals have on
Shylock?
6. Why is Shylock so adamant about the law and his refusal to grant mercy, despite the offer of
double and triple repayment? What is greater than his religion and his love of money?
7. Does it surprise you that Portia upholds the law instead of bending it in this case? Why or why
not?
8. What does it mean for Shylock to call Portia a Daniel?
9. Why does Shylock refuse to get a doctor to attend to Antonio?
10. What effect do Bassanios pleas have?
11. What is Antonios reaction to the trial?
12. How does Gratiano respond to the proceedings?
13. How does Portia save Antonios life?
14. What is the legal punishment for conspiring against a Venetians life?
15. What mercy does the Duke show? Before he gives his punishment, the Duke tells Shylock that
he will see the difference of our spirit. What is the spirit of Venetians, and by extension,
Christians?
16. What about Antonios mercy? What are his conditions?
17. How does Shylock feel about the outcome of the trial? How do you feel about it?
18. Was this a fair trial? Explain.
19. What do the Venetians gain from Shylocks conversion to Christianity? Why would this
punishment be viewed as virtuous?
20. What new insights do Portia & Nerissa have into their husbands natures as a result of this trial?
21. Shakespeare calls this play a comedy. How does the outcome of this trial help the play qualify?
22. Why would Portia ask Bassanio for the ring he had promised not to give away? What does this
say about her character?
23. What excuse does Bassanio give the disguised Portia for initially not giving her his wedding
ring?
24. How easy is it for Antonio to change Bassanios mind? What does Antonio say Bassanio should
value more than the ring?

Act IV, scene ii Questions

1. What does the fact that both Bassanio & Gratiano give their rings away say about relationships
between men and relationships between men and women?
2. How serious will the consequences of giving the rings away be? How do you know?
3. What is Shakespeare's intent in bringing in the ring plotline here? What purpose does it serve?

Act V, scene i Questions

1. How does the dramatic shift in setting affect the tone of the play at this point?
2. Why does Shakespeare return us to Lorenzo and Jessica? Are they a good match?
3. How is Portia's intelligence an asset to her marriage? How is it a hindrance?
4. The act starts in moonlight and ends as morning comes. Why?
5. Does this play have a "happily ever after" ending? Why or why not? What contributes to that
feeling? What detracts from it?